Balance changes, muscle weakness, and vision decline can all contribute to fall risk in older adults, but following some fall prevention tips can help lower your chances of major injury.

No matter what age you are, a fall can seriously affect your quality of life. When you’re over age 65 years, however, even minor falls can mean major injuries like head trauma, hip fractures, or bone breaks.

More than 1 in 4 older adults fall annually in the United States, and falling once doubles your chances of falling again. In addition to compromising your independence and quality of life, falls can bring a financial burden, depending on the extent of care you need during recovery.

These fall prevention strategies can help reduce your risk of falls, whether you’re at home or in a care facility.

Many things factor into why you’re more likely to fall during your advanced years, but one of the most prevalent risk factors is the body’s natural aging process.

As you get older, your physical capabilities decline. After middle age, muscle mass loss occurs at approximately 1% annually, with up to 50% loss by 80 years of age.

Some older adults also develop sarcopenia, a musculoskeletal condition that causes declines in strength, muscle mass, and performance beyond what’s part of the natural aging process.

As strength changes, your body’s stability also changes. You may notice your balance becomes poor, or you’re unable to catch yourself if you stumble.

Even if you have sarcopenia, a mix of strength training and cardiovascular exercise can help you regain and maintain strength and stability.

Not sure where to start? This exercise plan for older adults can help.

Simply being aware of your personal fall risk can go a long way toward fall prevention. This can be done in collaboration with your healthcare team.

Your primary care physician, for example, can discuss any chronic conditions you have, like diabetes or heart disease, that might increase fall risk. They can also let you know whether medications you take regularly might cause dizziness, lightheadedness, or muscle weakness.

An eye doctor can review any vision changes you need to be aware of. Obscured vision might make you more likely to run into tripping hazards or not see slippery conditions.

The more you know about your fall risk, the more you can be aware of how to prevent it.

According to the National Council on Aging, most falls happen at home. But fall-proofing your house doesn’t mean you need to do extensive renovations. Some simple changes — like adding better lighting — can go a long way.

Other ways you can fall-proof your home include:

  • installing railings on both sides of any stairs
  • increasing the placement of light controls to avoid having to walk to switches
  • using motion- or voice-activated electronics
  • keeping walking areas free from clutter or unnecessary furniture
  • attaching carpets firmly to the floor with non-slip pads
  • avoiding small, unsecured area rugs
  • mounting grab bars in high-slip areas like the bathroom
  • using night lights
  • keeping a flashlight and phone by your bed
  • placing cookware and high-use items in easy-to-reach places
  • securing cords out of the way
  • purchasing furniture at a height easy to get up and down from
  • keeping pets away from areas where they are underfoot
  • wearing non-slip footwear indoors
  • arranging furniture to maximize open space

Poor sleep is linked to an increased fall risk across many different groups of people. It can cause attention problems, daytime sleepiness, and poor balance, all of which can increase your chances of falling.

Finding the right key to unlock a good night’s sleep isn’t easy, but some important habits can help.

Known together as the term “sleep hygiene,” these habits include:

  • limiting screen time or blue light exposure before bed
  • going to bed and waking up around the same time each day
  • maintaining a dark, cool environment in your bedroom
  • sticking to a pre-sleep routine
  • skipping caffeine, large meals, and alcohol before bed
  • exercising regularly, even if it’s just a daily walk around the block
  • limiting daytime napping
  • going to bed only if you’re tired
  • engaging in relaxation practices before bed, such as meditation or reading

Your hands are fantastic tools for keeping you upright. If you stumble, they’re what reach out to grab onto something for stability.

When your hands aren’t free, there’s nothing between you and the ground.

You can help keep your hands available by using backpacks or shoulder bags whenever possible. If you need to move several items, such as groceries, consider taking more trips so you only need to carry one or two things at a time. It may also help to use a grocery delivery service that brings items to your doorstep, where you can transfer things inside at your own pace.

Walkers, canes, rollators, and scooters can all be helpful forms of extra support.

Mobility aids have come a long way in the last few decades, so you may be surprised by modern options. Walkers, for example, are increasingly lightweight and easier to transport. Meanwhile, newer scooters tend to be capable of higher speeds and smoother movement over uneven surfaces.

Certain equipment, like a walking cane, can also help you stay active, in addition to providing support.

If you’re an animal lover, you may qualify for a service dog.

Fall risk increases as you age, but that doesn’t mean falls have to be a certainty.

Fall prevention tips — like improving lighting, keeping your hands free, and exercising regularly — can be all it takes to help reduce the chances that a fall will affect your comfort, independence, or wallet.